Cartilage piercings are so hot right now – fact. Ever since Blondie brought ear piercings and punk back on the scene in the 80s, we’ve been misguidedly jabbing at our ears with safety-pins and apple cores and obsessing over the perfect ear constellation.
But, now that we’re older, wiser and obviously way more sensible, we’ve got some questions about the right way to get a cartilage piercing that we’d like answered. So, we went directly to A-list ear piercer Brian Keith Thompson from Body Electric Tattoo to get expert advice, straight from the guy who pierced Beyoncé.
What should a good ear piercing studio look like?
‘First off, the studio should be visibly clean. If you walk in and the floor is dirty, assume everything probably is!
‘Next, look at their portfolio or ask for their Instagram. Check their stuff out and see if you like it. If they don’t have pictures of their work, they’re probably not showing it for a reason.
‘And do your research. People spend more time searching for the best place to get a taco than they do finding a decent studio to get a piercing. You’re spending money on this, so make it good. Chances are, if it’s really cheap, the place is no good and you’ll just have to spend money on getting it done again.’
How should ear cartilage be pierced?
‘Cartilage should always be pierced with a needle. A piercing gun isn’t designed for cartilage, only soft tissue and even then I wouldn’t recommend it. Piercing cartilage with a gun can create hardcore hypertrophic scarring and even blow it up.
‘People have this stigma about needles but they’re actually way less painful because they’re designed to pierce skin, whereas a gun just delivers blunt force to push an earring through.’
Which part of my cartilage should I get pierced?
‘That’s totally up to you, but at the moment I’m really into daith piercings. The rook is also a favourite and it’s not too difficult to heal.
‘If you’re going for a conch piercing, start with a stud (hoops can put pressure on the hole when it’s new and be super irritating) and make sure the post on the earring isn’t too long at the back. Some piercers leave studs so long they’re like an antenna which catch on everything. The ideal is to ask for a 1/4 inch long stud.
‘I’m all about multiple piercings as well. If you’ve got the time and commitment, two piercings in the upper lobe look great with a mix of studs and hoops.’
What metal should cartilage be pierced with?
‘I only carry gold in different colours, platinum and titanium. Titanium and gold are hypoallergenic so perfect for piercing with. Gold’s actually so antibacterial that if you put it in a petri dish with bacteria, the bacteria migrates away from it. So if you’ve got sensitive skin, gold is ideal.
‘I never pierce with steel because it contains nickel which a lot of people are allergic to.
‘Most of the time if an ear piercing is flaring up, 9 out of 10 times it’s not an infection (they’re actually really rare) it’s an allergic reaction to the nickel in the jewellery.’
How much does a cartilage piercing hurt?
‘A cartilage piercing is different to a lobe piercing and it will hurt a bit more.
‘My advice is not to focus on the pain because it’s so short-lived (piercings don’t take long at all) and it’s mostly mental. It’s your brain trying to take care of your body but everyone can manage it.
‘Even I get butterflies before having a new piercing but it’s normal to be nervous, just try and enjoy the adrenaline rush. It’s a break outside of the norm which is exciting!’
How do you clean a cartilage piercing?
‘Everyone reacts to piercings differently so don’t be surprised if your friend’s new piercing looks less red than yours, or their’s swells and yours doesn’t. It’s a hole in your ear so it will be irritating, you just have to be good to it.
‘My top tip is to drink loads of water for three days after and just leave it the ‘eff alone.
‘Clean it with soap and water twice a day. Absolutely NO alcohol or peroxide-based products. You’ve just put a hole in your ear, adding harsh chemicals to something your body is trying to heal is only going to make it worse!
‘And no playing with it. Constantly twisting the earring will slow down the healing process.’
How long does it take for cartilage to heal?
‘Piercings don’t heal overnight. Ear lobes may take 8-10 weeks but cartilage takes 3-5 months to full heal.
‘Even if it looks good, it’s still healing. Cartilage heals from the outside in, making a tunnel all the way through your ear which takes time.
‘Don’t take your earring out until the piercing has healed and even then swap in another earring or it’s like to heal up again pretty quickly.
‘Longevity is everything. The longer you have a piercing, the longer you can leave it without wearing an earring. So a five-month-old piercing I wouldn’t leave longer than a few hours, whereas a five-year-old one can be left for five weeks if you wanted.’